Today Derek sauntered into the room where I was working, cheeks red from playing outside, and without any preamable whatsoever casually asked "Do you mind if I date someone?" I had been staring at the computer screen until his sudden appearance, so it took a few seconds for me to formulate any kind of response other than what was galloping through my head, which was something along the order of: "NO NO NO--NOT A CHANCE--FORGET ABOUT IT--DUDE, YOU'RE 9!" I was further confused by his tone...so nonchalant, as if he was merely asking "can I have some grapes before dinner?" There was no warning, no "Mommy, I have a serious question to ask you", no red banner waving in front of my face to get my attention before this inquiry.
When I (somewhat) had my wits about me once more, I responded, "well, who do you want to date?" (like that's the issue, here, right? because as long as you have the right girl, honey, go for it!) I hoped my own voice was as calm and reasonable as his had been, and that he wasn't wise to my internal Mommy Freak-Out. But his next statement put my mind at ease: "Psh, no one," he scoffed, "I just wanted to know if it was okay." (Wait: here comes the kicker...) "Ellen (not her real name, the little neighborhood troublemaker) said if you told me no, I should just do it anyway." Oh, REALLY? Well, let Ellen get her own (8 year old, by the way) patootie in trouble all she wants, but you keep right on checking with me first! I also learned during this very informative little chat that another neighbor, a 6th-grade boy, advised Derek that "4th grade is a great time to get a girlfriend." (I suppose he does know everything, since he now lives in the mystical land of Middle School. But I wonder what made him tag 4th grade as the Time to Date? Can you imagine the courtship banter? "Hey, baby, wanna ride my scooter? I can see PG movies now! Can I get you a juice box?")
Following that train of thought (hoping not to careen right off the tracks in a fiery crash), I commented "You had a girlfriend last year at school, right?" "Yeah," Derek griped, "but every time she walked into my classroom, J (his best friend, incidentally) said, ooh, there's Derek's girlfriend!" I can see how a boy might find this mortifying (and kudos to Derek for not smacking his best buddy--at least while his teacher was looking.) So I believe (fingers and toes crossed) we're still safe for now. Girls might not have cooties anymore, but I don't think they're all that appealing to Derek in "that way" yet. Knowing Derek, he's probably just trying to figure out what the fuss is about, so he will know what's going on when the time comes...in about another decade or so!